Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte Q&A: ‘Arrival’ production design
“It feels totally amazing,” divulges production designer Patrice Vermette during our recent webcam chat (watch above) when asked about his Oscar nomination for “Arrival.” The Paramount release about a linguist (Amy Adams) recruited by the U.S. military to translate alien communications after several spaceships land over major world cities brought the designer his second career bid (following the “The Young Victoria” in 2009), and he humbly states, “It’s quite a privilege, the recognition.”
This was the fourth collaboration between Vermette and director Denis Villeneuve, following “Prisoners” (2013), “Enemy” (2013), and “Sicario” (2015). Going in, the designer knew his director wanted total realism, most of all in the giant spacecraft, and that meant building everything by hand, as opposed to relying on a green-screen. “It was important for Denis, and it was important for Bradford Young, our cinematographer, to give the actors the possibility to really be totally submerged in the environment,” he explains, “and I think it really helped their performances.”
Vermette shares this nomination with set decorator Paul Hotte, who strove in his work to, “reproduce reality, because reality for Denis was a key word on this movie.” That went not only for the designs of the spaceship, but every house, office, and military base. “We didn’t try to do in our sets a style exercise,” he adds. Rather, they tried simply to, “bring the essential” of what was needed, “not overdressed, not overloaded.”
In addition to Vermette and Hotte’s bid, “Arrival” competes for seven other Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Villeneuve), Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.